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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » "Relationship" versus "Friendship"

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Author Topic: "Relationship" versus "Friendship"
fiveanddime
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I read a post on a forum the other night where someone said that without sex, a relationship is just a friendship. Other users were quick to counter this point, but it got me thinking that this view is pretty pervasive, especially among college students or others in the 18-25 pool. It's definitely an attitude I've noticed among some of my friends. Lines like "okay, but have you slept with him? No? Well then you're not really TOGETHER."

Or "It's great that you're doing [x], but relationships are really about the sex. Why would you deprive yourself of that?"

I find these attitudes frustrating for obvious reasons, but it also seems insensitive to people who aren't ready, don't want to have a sex life (now or ever), or who abstain for culture, personal, or religious reasons. As a peer advisor at my school, I often deal with students struggling to define their romantic and sexual relationships. Have you noticed this attitude? How have you addressed it?

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Heather
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You know, I'd agree that in a lot of ways, this is often a life-phase thing. As we get older, it usually becomes more and more apparent that a) the basis of every good relationship of every kind is friendship and b) relationships that include sex aren't usually defined by that, or even based in that, unless they really are expressly and primarily sexual relationships (versus relationships where there's sex and sexual feelings, but also friendship, or romantic feelings, or the construction of a family, etc.)

So, I can certainly see -- and know -- that addressing that often-generational framing can be super-challenging.

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Mortality
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I wouldn't say that the difference between a friendship and a romantic relationships is sex. (I say romantic relationship cos there are several different types of relationships). I have slept with people without us being together. For me the biggest difference is what kind of feeling you have for each other.
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Claire P.
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fiveanddime,

This “not together without sex” line sounds to me like another popular way for young people today to maneuver around a sex-and-dating world where the rules have become very blurred. I often came across it as well in the college world- generally in the context of trying to figure out what the status of a relationship (“relationship” in the broadest of terms) was without straight-out asking the other person, which seems to be this weird taboo nowadays- presumably because people are scared of scaring their partner away.

I think it might be possible that some of the people you’ve heard this line from are referring to the ambiguity of dating today and feel that sex yields some type of closure? From my experience at least, I have not known that to be a reality reliable enough to actually base anything on- clear communication is the only real way to know whether you are together. I know that is a scary thing for people to hear. I was a peer counselor in college also, so I know that is a scary thing for people to hear. But if a person trusts their partner (ideally, you would not be sleeping with someone you did not trust), I would usually suggest they even casually broach the subject of status with them. It could even be so simple as to casually say, “So what do you see us as? Just wondering cause my friends were asking if we’re a thing and I didn’t know what to say since we obviously haven’t really talked about it.” I do also think this is a better conversation to have in person, rather than a question to text or ask via Facebook, so there is no space for misunderstanding. If the partner in question does go running as per the fear, were they really worth the time?

Regarding the line used in a way to minimize your romantic relationship with a partner: you’re right that “No? Well then you’re not really TOGETHER” is not only an ignorant comment, but I think, an unnecessarily disrespectful and hurtful one. Coupled with “relationships are really about the sex,” however, I feel more inclined towards sympathy. Perhaps saying this type of line could be a way to cover up personal insecurities that go back towards my ideas in the previous paragraph? Or at least, an attempt to fit into the perceived attitudes towards sex in today’s culture?

Obviously I could be way off, but regardless, I think clear communication regarding true, real feelings about the issues of sex and relationships is understandably scary, but still most advisable. This includes just talking to friends that make dismissive, hurtful judgments about relationships they themselves are not involved in. Sometimes people get so used to their own backgrounds and the cultures they came from that they may not even be aware that they are being inappropriate- they may even think they are helping “open your eyes” to the truth. Even doing something so simple as responding to your friends’ statements by saying you find them inappropriate and hurtful should be enough to at least start an honest and more respectful discussion.

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Wreckingball
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I think it's less about sex and more about what you and your partner have agreed to.

Examples:

1 Two people haveing casual sex but have not talked about any commitment or 'relationship' beyond the casual sex.


2 two people talk to each other and decide they are in a relationship. they aren't having sex but they both agree to be comitted to each other.

In which one of these senarios is there a comitted relationship....
It's not rocket surgery.

Maybe this is oversimplifying it a bit but it just seems to me that if you agree you're in a committed/ more than friends relationship with somebody than you are probably in a committed/ more than friends relationship. I don't think the sex part is that relevant.

Take asexuality. Some people have very close committed/ more than friends relationships without any 'sexual' contact.

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'My love's a beahive, dodecahedron of caring'

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Wreckingball
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I also agree with Heather,

How can you know if you don't ask?

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'My love's a beahive, dodecahedron of caring'

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fiveanddime
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Great responses, everyone!

These kinds of messages are pervasive wherever you go, so it's good to hear other opinions as we try to get people to stop making blanket assumptions.

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